Is there a down side to Stoicism? A person with Stoic values must necessarily experience a separateness form the mass of humanity as encountered through friends, relatives, acquaintances, and the media. That is not necessarily bad, but it does have consequences. For one, there is the sense of knowing basic truths that others get excited about as great discoveries; their naiveté is alienating. It’s like working in a securities firm and having the intern ask you excitedly if you have ever heard of a newspaper called the Wall Street Journal.
Also, just having a different view of emotions sets a Stoic apart from the madding crowd. My son played me an interview with a musical artist discussing his song that depicts the panoply of feelings upon a break up. He was advocating indulging your anger, hurt, despondency etc… Go ahead and smash the latest breakable gift against the wall. Similarly, I was listening to a radio show where a noted Christian author, Anne Lamotte, said that she knows she should “get over things, but just can’t!” So there! She had apparently never heard of applying certain kinds reasoning to her dilemma. She seems to think that conquering emotion just happens on its own, and when it doesn’t, capitulation is in order as if weakness were strength. Of course there were many listeners who called in to express how her words were akin to gospel. The preeminence and ubiquity of sentiment might almost make me question whether I have gone astray in my Stoic indictment of immoderate emotion, except that I have been there and done that, with ill effects. In addition to experience, I can also reckon that it simply does no good to consider, like the musical artist, a break up the catalyst and rightful cause of an emotional volcano and, like Anne Lamotte, to throw up my hands in surrender to my feelings.
When studying how my Stoic values push me out of the herd, I consider that perhaps it is partly age. I might feel apart from many sentiments and experiences because of age; however, Anne Lamotte and many other troubled, complaining, dissatisfied people are older. Age is a factor in my sense of separateness, but also age pertains in recommending Stoicism to me. Experience of a near lifetime has no doubt helped me to understand how useful Stoicism could be. (That is not to say that I would not have benefitted greatly as a young person from even having some basic Stoic goals). I look upon the world, removed on my promontory of age and I happen to have Stoic values—the two combined do create an even greater divide. So be it– there is no remedy for a lot of things and that is one of them.